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PLATFORM: PS3
ESRB RATING: E
DEVELOPER:
Namco Bandai
PUBLISHER: Namco Bandai

Katamari Damacy was a delight, the rare quirky Japanese game that managed to make a big impact with international audiences. The simple gameplay and cutesy style warmed many people to the game, and the music and characters instantly became videogame icons.

Which is why it was no surprise that it was instantly turned into a franchise, with many a sequel pumped out to appease gamers eager for more. Sadly, none of the sequels could hit the high note that the original did, but with the PS3-exclusive Katamari Forever it’s come as close as it’s ever likely to.
    
THE PITCH
 
The King of All Cosmos is showing off his super jump to the Prince, who has a lame and pathetic little hop, when he gets smashed in the head by a comet and knocked unconscious. While he’s out the Prince and his cousins make a RoboKing mech to take his place which of course immediately goes berserk and destroys all the stars in the Universe.

The King wakes up with amnesia and you have to bring back his memory by playing through remixed classic levels and bringing color back to them, while RoboKing is repenting for behaving like a typical Japanese robot and helping to create new stars in the sky. You do missions for both of them to once again bring peace to the cosmos.

So yeah, ignore the story. It’s the same old quirky dumb trash, and thankfully easily skipped.


CHUDTIP- Want to impress your male friends? Show them how great you are at this game. Make sure you have a nice outfit on your character first!

  
THE PLAY
 
If you’ve played a Katamari game before you’ll know exactly what to expect. You start off with a small sticky ball (Katamari) and have to roll up crap that’s scattered all over the world to make the ball bigger. You can only roll stuff up that’s smaller than you so there’s some strategy involved in choosing your path, but as you get larger and larger you’ll go from rolling up objects around a house to rolling up an entire town, and eventually all the continents of the world and more.
 
The game is famous for its tank controls, where you use both analog sticks to move forward as if you controlled a track with each. It allows for precise movement although like the others you.ll inevitably end up getting the camera stuck behind objects and be blinded here and there.

There is one new move in this installment. Now you can finally jump by either pressing a button or jerking the Sixaxis controller up and down, but of course like ever other motion controlled game on the PS3 you’ll find it much easier to just hit the button. There are also two new pickups that you can grab- hearts of the King and the Robo-King that act as magnets and drag all the items towards your Katamari… really helpful tools.


CHUDTIP- With that Prince Hop it’s wise to keep an eye on what’s immediately above you.


But the game offers almost nothing new for a series that is in so desperate need of an overhaul. It’s what happens when the very first game you release lets you roll up the whole world – there’s not much further you can take the concept.

But it’s to the designer’s credit that even so many games later it’s still so much fun and addictive. The couple of new additions of visual styles and gameplay modes add a lot more replay value than you’d expect, and besides some of the more irritating levels (any one that involves you being careful with what you roll up) it’s never frustrating and always enjoyable.

It’s probably best if you haven’t played the series in a few years, because everything feels fresh again, and the pretty HD graphics sure don’t hurt.
    
THE PRESENTATION

The graphics have a new cell-shaded cartoony look to it that fits the game nicely, but if you miss the old style it’s still here too. There are also two other styles that you can unlock- colored pencil or wood grain- so you can change the look to suit yourself.


CHUDTIP- As soon as you find one of those Broken Hearts, grab it up! If your Katamari gets too big they might get too small to find again.


The classic Katamari soundtrack has been remixed to varying degrees of success, but they’ve mostly great and just as catchy as the original ones. You’ll have the old “na, na na na na, na na” theme back in your head in no time.
   

THE REPLAY
 
There are an absolute ton of levels here (34!), some of which are remixed versions of levels from previous games. Once you beat the game you unlock Katamari Drive, which might be more fun than the regular game. Here you zoom around at top speed and have a shorter time limit, making for a faster, more exciting game. It’s so great in fact that I found myself playing through the entire game once again to roll up more presents and cousins.

That’s right, there are also dozens upon dozens of secret items that you can find over the game, something else to encourage replay value. The cousins are playable characters and the presents are objects you can wear to change up your appearance. They add  nothing to the gameplay but there are some trophies for being a completionist. If you do great on both these modes you can also unlock Eternal mode, which allows you to explore without a timer, as well as Classic Katamari mode, which will take away your jump move and put the graphics back to their old state.

So yeah, there’s a whole lot of Katamari in this package, hours and hours of fun- provided you’re not already sick of the gameplay.


CHUDTIP- This level is a bit tricky till you realize you can suck up individual countries. Go after the smaller, less important ones first.

 
One strange omission is online multiplayer, something that was included in the 360-exclusive Beautiful Katamari. There are online leaderboards and offline co-op and competitive missions, but the lack of online multiplayer is a blow.
 

THE VERDICT

If you only buy one Katamari game in your life, make it this one. It’s no grand step above the last installments but it does almost everything right. The sheer amount of levels and modes included means that it will suck up hours upon hours of your life.
 

8.0 out of 10